Taking Time with Meals and Snacks

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With the “spring forward” time change upon us, I thought I’d talk a little about timing. For some folks, timing and length of meals and snacks can make a difference in weight gain or weight loss.

Timing Your Meals

When it comes to the timing of our meals and snacks, avoid going longer than 4 hours without eating anything (ideally you want to try to eat about every 2 ½ to 3 hours). If you’re in a meeting or running errands during a meal time, make sure to at least have a snack (trail mix, peanut butter crackers, pretzels, etc.,)  to tie you over until you can get an actual meal. If you’re going out with the girls for dinner or any other meal, try to avoid being ravenously hungry when you get to the restaurant. To do this, have a snack such as a small peanut butter sandwich or an apple about 30 minutes to an hour before going out to eat. This snack will help curb your appetite so that you’re still hungry enough to enjoy your main entrée but you’re not so hungry that you mindlessly eat copious amounts of chips and salsa, bread and butter, or any other pre-entrée items that are usually served at restaurants.

Taking Time with Your Meals

Are you a quick eater?  Hectic schedules and society in general tend to make us eat quickly out of necessity. Unfortunately though, rapid eating leaves little opportunity for our body to provide us the sensation of fullness. It takes about 15-20 minutes for our brain and stomach to communicate that we’ve eaten something and give that full feeling. Often times, we end up eating so quickly, that within the first 5 minutes of eating, we’ve already eaten the volume of food it takes for our stomach to feel full BUT since the brain and stomach haven’t had time to communicate yet, we keep on eating and eating until about 20 minutes later we feel that “overfull” feeling (I call it gross full or that level of fullness that makes us want to unbutton our jeans or take off our Spanx) since our brain and stomach have finally caught up with us.

Slow down your pace of eating so that it takes you at least 15-20 minutes to eat your meal. One way to accomplish this is making sure to put down the fork in between every bite of food. Sometimes we end up eating so quickly and we end up already having the 4th bite of mashed potatoes ready to go on our fork before we’ve even completely swallowed our first initial bite!  Other ways you can slow your pace of eating include taking a sip of water (or other low calorie beverage) in between bites of food or even having conversation in between bites of food. Slowing down your pace of eating not only helps with getting full off of a smaller portion size but also allows you to take time to really enjoy and savor each bite of food.

And…..March is National Nutrition Month! This year’s theme is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.”  By timing our meals and taking time with our meals, we can really enjoy and savor how delicious and healthy food can be. I’ll be having more upcoming posts about National Nutrition Month, including my upcoming trip for the Alabama Dietetic Association annual meeting so stay tuned!!


I'm Blogging National Nutrition Month


4th of July Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

Hi friends! Today I wanted to share a few quick tips to help you keep up healthy habits during the 4th of July holiday. Cookouts are infamous for copious amounts of red meat, alcohol, and high calorie side items; luckily though, cookouts also provide great opportunity for enjoying fresh veggies and fruit, especially on a hot day!

  • Do NOT show up to the get together famished.  Though “saving up your calories for the big meal” sounds like a great idea, it can do more harm than good by setting you up to eat overly large portions.If your cookout or gathering is at lunch, make sure to have breakfast beforehand….if it’s in the evening, have a light breakfast and lunch- you get the idea 🙂 Having a snack 30 minutes to an hour before eating can help avoid eating “with your eyes” and let you take your time to enjoy the foods that you really want to eat.
  • Eat slowly…take at least 15-20 minutes to consume your meal. It takes about 15-20 minutes for our brain and stomach to communicate that we’ve eaten something and give that full feeling. Often times, we end up eating so quickly, that within the first 5 minutes of eating, we’ve already eaten the volume of food it takes for our stomach to feel full BUT since the brain and stomach haven’t had time to communicate yet, we keep on eating and eating until about 20 minutes later we feel that “overfull” feeling (I call it gross full or that level of fullness that makes us want to unbutton our jeans or take off our Spanx). Putting the fork down in between every bite of food or taking a sip of a low calorie beverage between bites can help you pace your eating.
  • Build your plate using the plate planner method: 1/2 of your plate as veggies, 1/4 of your plate with starch, and 1/4 of your plate with protein (try also using a smaller plate if available). Often times we make about 3/4 of our plate something starchy like mac n cheese and potato salad with a hunk of meat on the side and no veggies in sight. Making a plate that has non-starchy vegetables as the star can help you feel full (from the water and fiber content of the veggies) without excessive calorie intake. This brings me to my next point…
  • Eat the ‘healthiest foods’ first. Having those veggies full of water and fiber can help slow digestion and provide that feeling of fullness. Additionally, having something that contains protein and some fat (maybe in the form of olive oil in a salad dressing) can help you feel full sooner.
  • Make sure to drink ample amounts of water throughout the day. If your cookout is outside, chances are you may get dehydrated more quickly outside due to the heat. If your “non-water” beverages contain alcohol or caffeine, these can also exacerbate the need for water due to their natural diuretic effects. If you need to be more convinced on the need to hydrate in the heat or strategies for naturally flavoring your water, check this out. Also, if you’re wanting to be mindful of calories from alcohol, be sure to look at my previous article comparing calories from different types of alcoholic beverages.
  • Be mindful of foods that do not provide fullness. Potato chips, crackers, and other types of refined carbohydrates can pack on unnecessary calories without providing a sensation of fullness. This can lead to mindless eating of these munchies. Instead, choose items that have a high water and fiber content, like a salad or some fresh fruit. If you want something salty, having an item with protein such as peanut butter, nuts, or hummus can be a nice option.
  • Try to be active during the day. Sure after eating a big plate of food, we totally want to crash on the couch. Instead, think about going for a family/friends walk in the afternoon or playing a game of flag football. These activities can keep you from being sedentary during the day and also allow you to socialize with your friends and family you’ve been wanting to spend time with 🙂

I hope you find these quick tips helpful 🙂 Please feel free to share your own strategies when it comes to holiday eating. And for those of you doing some traveling for this summer holiday, please check out a post from my fabulous RD friend, Cindy at Newlywed Nutrition— she has some great tips for eating healthy on the road including the best choices at gas stations as well as how to pack snacks for your car.

Happy 4th of July, friends!


Counting Calories in Your Alcohol


Happy Friday folks! With summer in full swing and 4th of July holiday cookouts just around the corner for many of us, I wanted to share a quick post concerning calories in alcoholic beverages. With many of my patients, calories from alcoholic beverages tend to be an afterthought when it comes to accounting to daily calorie consumption. However, I’ve also got a few folks who account for their calories from alcohol so much that they skip meals and snacks so they have enough calories allotted for weekend drinking. This is something we should definitely avoid doing. The way to find a nice balance is making sure you eat routinely throughout the day and be mindful & aware of your liquid calories so you can plan your drinks accordingly. Below I’ve listed a few quick tips (this list could go on forever) to keep in mind while when drinking, especially if you’re outside on a hot day:

  • Avoid Drinking on an Empty Stomach– in fact, make sure you have a meal or snack with a nice mix of carb, protein, and fat (maybe some delicious cheese and crackers) to help slow down the absorption of alcohol and avoid getting sick
  • Stay Hydrated in Between Alcohol Drinks– this is going to be really important on a hot day, especially as the alcohol will serve as a diuretic, making you even more dehydrated. If you’re going for a mixed drink that includes both alcohol and a carbonated, caffeinated beverage, water intake is going to be even more important, so drink up on the H2O and water containing foods such as delicious watermelon
  • Watch What You’re Munching On While Drinking– ever notice that at some bars they put out salty snacks like peanuts or Chex mix? Salty snacky foods like this promote us to drink more as a way to combat or even complement the salty goodness we’re eating so make sure you watch any “mindless” eating that may occur while drinking that can attribute to unnecessary calorie consumption
  • Have a Designated Driver– I know this doesn’t have anything to do with nutrition per se, but I care about your safety and had to include this quick PSA

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I wanted to share a few beautiful and HELPFUL graphics from Wine Folly which is a GREAT website for all of you wine loving enthusiasts!

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But what if you’re a beer person? They’ve got you covered!

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If you’re wanting to go with a “lighter” choice in alcoholic beverage, the folks at 213 Pounds to Happiness share their favorite lighter alcoholic beverages.

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For a complete listing of calorie content in some of your beverages of choice, including liquors that may not be addressed above, please visit CalorieKing.Com which I enjoy recommended to my patients often. I like to consider a “one stop shop” in terms of looking for the nutrition information on various food items, including commercial restaurant dishes. This tool can be especially helpful when looking up calories in beverages…especially alcohol!

Last but not least…please drink responsibly, friends! This includes but is not limited to drinking and driving, drinking while pregnant, and drinking in excess. Okay, that was my last PSA 🙂 Happy Friday folks!


Monday Mind-Pick: What’s Your Definition of Healthy?

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Me and my 5 lb fat model after a lunch and learn presentation today.

Since it’s Monday, I thought I’d take advantage of today and do a little Monday Mind-Picking. What I want to know from my readers today is, “What’s Your Definition of Healthy?” when it comes to food/eating? This summer with work I’m doing a series of group nutrition presentations to help my clients with summer weight loss goals. I believe a lot of times our biggest gamechanger with our eating habits involves our own personal definition of what we consider to be a healthy food.

I know that my dietitian colleagues will likely have their own definition of “healthy” and I too will share my intepretation soon as well, but I’d love for you all to comment today on what your definition of a healthy food is. As tempting as it is to Google the phrase “healthy” or “healthy food” today, I encourage you to just share what comes up off the top of your head.  Say for example, would you consider iceberg lettuce healthy because it’s low calorie and it’s a vegetable? Or would you consider a potato unhealthy because it’s white and a starchy carbohydrate?  These are just a few examples of some things, but I’d like for you to provide your own food examples as well.  I’d like to use your responses to create a series of posts this summer that will correlate with some of the information I’ll be sharing with my Summer Slimdown series at work.

The more responses the better so please feel free to comment 🙂


Creating the Perfect Salad

Dining out….we love and we hate it, especially if we’re trying to follow a particular eating regimen. So many of my clients get apprehensive when it comes to eating out, especially if they’re going to an establishment that doesn’t explicitly list the nutrition content on the menu or website. Are you the same way? In some cases, we may feel like the only way we can eat healthy at a restaurant is if we order a salad; speaking from past experience, I’ve been in this boat as well.

Sometimes when we order a salad, one of two things can happen:

1) Scenario one… we get a salad for the sake of the word “salad” being in the title and it’s basically a plate/bowl of fried chicken tenders, shredded yellow processed cheese, 1 cup of croutons and about 1/2 gallon of ranch dressing…maybe something similar to the picture below.

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This salad has some great components but having a lot of dressing (not necessarily as seen in this picture) or a whopping deep fried chicken breast can provide excessive saturated fat, sodium, and calories to your meal.

2) Scenario two…you order an iceberg or romaine lettuce salad with barely anything on it but a tasteless piece of grilled chicken and a virtually calorie free vinaigrette, maybe something similar to this:

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Sure this is low in calorie but you’ll find yourself getting hungry sooner than later without the necessary fat that you need and adequate carbohydrate to provide energy.

Now don’t get me wrong, salads are wonderful awesome meals that can house the components we need for a healthy meal (carb, protein, and fat) but often times we order on two extremes of the restaurant salad spectrum. Components to a meal worthy salad include the following:

1) Great lettuce– romaine and iceberg are fine and dandy but are primarily water and don’t house many vitamins or minerals. Instead, go for dark green/colorful lettuces such as spinach or a baby spring mix

2) A variety of veggies– adding things like carrots, mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, etc., can really enhance the textures and flavors in your salad while also providing a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals….without adding excess calories

3) Carbohydrate– most of the time when people think of carbohydrates, they only think of the starchy things like breads, rice, pasta, etc. Luckily, fruit and dairy products such as dried/fresh fruits and milk/yogurt can provide carbohydrate in a meal which the body uses as it’s preferred fuel source. If you’re not a fruit in your salad kind of person or you’re not a crouton kind of person either, having a serving of bread on the side or a baked potato with minimal heart-healthy margarine and low fat/fat free sour cream can provide some good carbohydrate.

4) Have protein– protein in your salad is so important as the protein along with fat help bring satiety to your meal and keep you full for a longer amount of time because protein and fat take longer to digest than carbohydrate. Protein on a salad could be grilled chicken, boiled egg, nuts/seeds, cheese (think outside of just regular shredded yellow cheese for more variety), beans, tofu, etc.

5) Get your fat– as with protein, fat will bring the satiety to the salad that your body needs. Fat can come from the salad dressing that you use (try to use vinaigrette based things vs. cream based dressings most of the time) and even the protein components that you add such as nuts/seeds, cheese, etc.

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Can we say yummy?!
This is courtesy of Spaghettofu!

Now, I do want to say that these suggestions primarily apply if you’re having a salad as your main entree. If you’re doing a side salad for sake of primarily getting in your veggies servings during the day, then feel free to have your carbohydrate/protein/fat components within your main dish 🙂

Curious about some of the worst salads to have at a restaurant….check out this article from Men’s Health!

Soon I’ll be posting some helpful tips on ordering out in general — stay tuned! Yes it’s possible to eat healthy without having to get a salad 🙂


Hungry? Is it Physical Hunger or Emotional Hunger?

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It’s 8:30 p.m. and you’re up watching your favorite t.v. show. During the commercial break, you decide to flip it to Food Network and see Guy Fieri trying a delicious malted milkshake on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Hungry yet? Or maybe you keep the commercials on and see that DQ Grill and Chill has a promotion for buy one blizzard, get one free; magically, you are on the move to find something sweet in your fridge or pantry….or maybe even looking for your car keys to make a run through the drive through for a dipped cone. Does any of this sound familiar?  Or maybe you’re just really hungry for something sweet and savory after a rough day at work or an argument with a friend over the phone. Can you relate to any of these scenarios? I most definitely can and can also admit that I’ve given in to a lot of them as well. With a lot of the clientele I see, an important topic of discussion is helping people figure out when they’re truly hungry and using intuitive eating as a way to eat sensibly throughout the day.

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Sometimes we may eat out of boredom and maybe just because someone suggested to go eat because it was something to do. I’ve worked with people in the past that use food for comfort— especially knowing that they can count on that pint of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream to taste exactly like it did the last time they bought it without the emotional baggage of the boyfriend that made them mad a few hours before 🙂 If you’ve ever wondered if you’re walking the line between physical hunger and emotional hunger, I’ve posted a graphic below to help you decipher between “symptoms”:

8 Traits of Emotional HungerThe information above can be really helpful in trying to decipher between physical and emotional hunger. Sometimes people tell me they never really feel hungry at all, or at least not until the end of the day. Did you know that eating more frequently throughout the day can actually help that sensation of hungry come back? Trust me, this is a good thing. If we’re the type of person on the go and rarely set aside time for meals or snacks, our body will start to think, “well buddy, if you’re not even going to do something about this hunger then I’m not even going to give you that hunger feeling anymore”. Now don’t get me wrong, just because that hunger feeling has gone away does NOT mean your body isn’t in need of those calories. But, if we start to change our habits and eat sensible meals and snacks every 3-4 hours, our metabolism starts to “wake up” and provide us those natural feelings of hunger that can help us achieve intuitive eating.

To complement some of the things I shared in finding an appropriate vending machine snack to address your hunger needs in a bind, I’ve listed some key things below to help with the hungry (or perhaps hangry) battle:

1. Take Time with Your Meals – Be sure to take at least 15-20 minutes when you eat if you’ve got the time. It takes about this length of time for your brain and stomach to communicate chemically and actually give you that sensation of fullness. Often times though, we end up eating so quickly that within the first five minutes of eating we’ve already eaten the volume of food it would take for our stomach to be full. But since it’s only been five minutes and there’s still more food left to be had on your plate or at the table, you may keep eating until you reach that level of “over full” about 30 minutes later. Think of that overly full feeling that makes you want (or need) to unbutton your blue jeans and put on some sweat pants, or in my case, take off my spanx 🙂 Ways you can extend your meal time include putting the fork down in between every bite of food (i.e. don’t have bite #4 of mashed potatoes hovering by your mouth ready to go before you even completely swallowed bite #1), or taking sips of water or other low calorie beverage in between bites of food as well.

2. Make Sure You’re Staying Well Hydrated- Feeling hungry pretty soon after already having your meal or snack? That rumble in your tummy might actually be your body telling you that you’re thirsty. Before getting to the point of dehydration and having a parched mouth or dry throat, your body may give the sensation of hunger to prompt you to drink more water. Take home point: if you feel “hungry” pretty soon after already eating your meal or snack not too long ago, have a glass of water and then reassess the hunger that you’re feeling. If you’re still hungry after rehydrating, you may have truly not eaten enough at your previous meal or snack.

3. Avoid Going Long Periods of Time Between Meals and Snacks- Just like a burning fireplace, our metabolism likes to be fed every few hours to continue to burn. This also includes breakfast which could be considered the “lighter fluid” that jump starts your fire /metabolism for the day. Having breakfast within 30 mins-1 hr after rising can help literally ‘break the fast’ that your body was experiencing while sleeping. Only eating 1 or 2 times a day puts our body in survival mode, training it to hold on to any calorie we give it for dear life. Also, if you’re eating small mini meals/snacks throughout the day, this keeps you from being overly hungry at your next meal. One other helpful tip, especially if you’re going out to eat: have a snack 30 mins-1hr prior to going out to eat if you know you’ll be ravenously hungry by the time you go out to eat. Having a small snack such as an apple or peanut butter crackers can help curb your appetite enough to prevent you from gorging on a whole basket of chips and salsa (or bread and butter) before your entree gets in front of you.

As a last thought, I do want to acknowledge that there are foods out there that have been created just for pure pleasure….which is great! We most definitely eat to nourish our bodies but we also eat for pleasure too. Finding a balance between addressing your body’s nutritional needs and incorporating your favorite “pleasure” foods is all part of eating a balanced healthy diet. Using intuitive eating and listening to your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues can help decipher between physical hunger and emotional hunger 🙂